YAOUNDE, Cameroon 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new coronavirus safety awareness campaign targeting Africa’s youth population.

The Mask Up initiative was unveiled in an online briefing by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for WHO Africa, on Thursday.

“Wearing masks can save lives. This is why WHO is launching today the ‘#MaskUp, Not Down” campaign which aims to reach over 40 million young people in Africa on social media by the end of 2020,” she said.

Moeti said there has been promising news regarding COVID-19 vaccine development over the past two weeks, with initial data from late-stage trials of two candidates indicating high levels of efficacy.

“We are now working with African countries on preparedness to roll out the vaccines,” she said.

Moeti called for caution ahead of the coming winter holidays.

“We are now nearing the time of year when people travel to spend their holidays together. These end-of-year get togethers are a key part of our lives in African countries, but they can certainly increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” she said.

“Outbreaks spread socially, and we can stop them with safe social interactions. I ask everyone to be mindful of your individual risks and the risk of you loved ones, friends, and neighbors.”

The virus caseload in Africa is now over 2 million, including with more than 1.7 million recoveries and over 48,000 deaths.

‘Good news’

Moeti also spoke about the success of anti-Ebola efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“Finally, some good news. While fighting COVID-19, WHO has also been supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo to control its 11th outbreak of Ebola. Yesterday, the government declared it over! This is a big achievement,” she said.

“Innovations used to fight Ebola, such as technologies to keep vaccines at super-cold temperatures, will be helpful when bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Africa,” the official added.

The WHO announced the end of the 11th Ebola outbreak in the western part of the DRC on Wednesday.

In a statement, WHO Africa said 130 people were infected and 55 died in the outbreak, which took place in communities scattered across dense rainforests, as well as crowded urban areas. 

* Felix Tih contributed to this story

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